Localized practices of Filipina Catholics limited in Hong Kong

Listen to Audio: 


Music from St. Joseph's Church, Hong Kong


Music from St. Joseph's Church, Hong Kong

There is some evidence that Catholic practice in Hong Kong tends to undo some of the local variation that exists in the Philippines. Back home, Filipino culture and religious practice encompass many particular local practices and devotions from 7,000 islands in a big archipelago. Some of those local practices and identities are brought to Hong Kong, but in the eyes of the dominant culture, a person’s origin in Luzon, Cebu, or Mindanao is subsumed even more to their identity as Filipinas. Enrique Oracion saw this to some extent in his study of the Sinulog Festival, a religious and cultural festival particular to Cebu, Philippines, which Filipinas in Hong Kong have recently begun to celebrate in Hong Kong.1 Though the festival is a well-guarded marker of local identity in Cebu, participation in it opens more broadly in Hong Kong, where “everyone is seen as a Filipino, not a Cebuano.”2

Filipinas in interviews sometimes made reference to particular devotions that they carried from home, but these were typically part of private prayer, rather than public prayer. One Filipino priest suggested that Filipinos would prefer “a fiesta style of Catholicism… with the saints, all the devotions, and a lot of noise and dancing,” but the Hong Kong Church operates in a much more subdued way. Liturgies tended to be relatively subdued, with little movement, but plenty of singing. Worshipers might gesture in subdued ways at the Our Father, and bow to one another at the kiss of peace, but liturgically they were rather modest in behavior. Liturgies in English speaking parishes included non-Filipinos, and even Tagalog Masses stress Filipina commonality and Hong Kong restraint. In one nod to Filipino culture, Filipinas at the end of Mass often came to the altar to touch the feet of Jesus on the crucifix before leaving church.

  • 1. Enrique G. Oración, "The Sinulog Festival of Overseas Filipino Workers in Hong Kong: Meanings and Contexts,” Asian Anthropology 11 (2012): 107-394.
  • 2. Oracion,  "The Sinulog Festival,” 119.
Learn More: